Bafana Bafana striker Tokelo Rantie says he is disappointed at missing the penalty that could have seen South Africa take a commanding 2-0 lead against Algeria on Monday. The North Africans came back to score three goals after the miss, including an own goal from defender Thulani Hlatshwayo, to win the match 1-3 in the opening clash of the CAF Orange Africa Cup of Nations Equatorial Guinea 2015 tournament. South Africa now has a mammoth task to win their remaining two games – against Senegal on Friday (23 January) and Ghana on Tuesday (27 January).
SAFA Media spoke to Rantie after the match.
Q: Your thoughts on the match?
A: I think our overall performance was impressive. We created a lot of chances and we could have wrapped it up before the end of the first half. The good thing is that we are creating chances, now we just need to convert them.
Q: Starting off with a loss puts Bafana Bafana under pressure, even though we are left with two games?
A: Yes of course it does, but at the same time it can work as a positive. It can also give us the boost and the motivation going into the next game. I personally believe that we can get the remaining six points. If you look back at our match against Algeria you can see we created a lot of chances and I strongly believe we can create those chances again against Senegal and Ghana. And if we can continue with the same kind of performance we had against Algeria, I don’t think anything can stop us from competing against the others. I believe we are still in it.
Q: The team is devastated with the Algeria result….
A: Yes, very much so because it is the first loss in 11 matches and we were not used to losing anymore. It’s a setback for us, so we just have to rectify the mistakes we did. We all know that whenever there is a loss, there is a lot of criticism, and rightly so, but then again there could also be a lot of positivity into how we turn that negativity into positives.
Q: How do we turn things around?
A: We will have to forget about the previous match. It’s gone, it’s behind us and we now need to focus on the task ahead because we can’t change that result. The next games we play we have to make sure we collect maximum points because you can’t stay in a tournament if you don’t have points, if you don’t score goals. We still have a chance.
Q: Tell us about the penalty, what was going through your mind?
A: I take full responsibility. When we were awarded the penalty I just went for the ball as I felt very confident and did not even think I could miss it. I am very disappointed that it did not go in but we all know it can happen to anyone in the game. No person steps up to take the penalty to miss. I am trying hard not to dwell on it because it will not help me move forward when I am given another chance to play. The penalty issue is gone and it’s time to move on. I am also glad I have teammates who understand that it could also happen to anyone. They didn’t criticise me even though they are disappointed that I did not score. If I take all the negativity of missing the penalty into the next match I will be failing my teammates and the whole squad as I will not be able to perform to the best of my abilities. Stressing about the penalty won’t help anyone. I just need to be mentally strong. But I am very excited about the next game. That is my focus right now.
Q: Given a chance, would you take the penalty again?
A: Most definitely, I will do so. That is how confident I am having learnt from my mistake. I know at the moment there is a lot of criticism for the miss, but it comes with the territory and as players we have to learn to accept that. But if you dwell on that you will only be destroying yourself and your career. The most important thing as I said is to be focused on the next challenge and try to do the correct thing. It is sad that people tend to forget the good things we players do but dwell on one mistake. I was happy with the responsibility I had of taking the penalty, but, again, I am very disappointed with the miss.
Q: Crucial game against Senegal, who won against Ghana. What needs to be done to motivate the players for that match?
A: We have had a lot of discussions with the coach and the technical team to rectify our mistakes in the match against Algeria. To be honest we are not a bad team, we believe we are one of the best in the tournament and play good football but there are have some areas that need working – like finishing and a bit of defending as a unit. It will be a completely different ball game against Senegal in terms of going forward. If we just continue with the way we played against Algeria I believe we can get the points against Senegal and be back on track.
Q: Six points to play for, still confident of the second round?
A: Most definitely. I have always been positive. I don’t think God can bring us here for no reason. I don’t think we can play 11 games, lose one and be a bad team overnight. We have a team that is capable of achieving things.
Q: To South Africans fans back home, who are cheering the team on, what can you say?
A: First of all, I want to thank them for all the messages of good wishes and for all the support. We know they are disappointed after the loss. But we will do our best in the next match to get a victory. They should remain behind us as they have been since the qualifiers. We are still in the tournament, it’s not over yet. As a nation we need to stand together and support each other because that’s all we need to go forward. We can’t go to war with half of the army. We need everyone on board, and the fans’ backing will get the best out of us.